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The weight of heaven : a novel / Thrity Umrigar.

By: Umrigar, Thrity N.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: New York : Harper, c2009Edition: First edition.Description: 365 pages ; 24 cm.Content type: text Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9780061472541 (hbk.); 0061472549 (hbk.).Subject(s): Married people -- Fiction | Bereavement -- Fiction | Americans -- India -- Fiction | Adoption -- Fiction | Murder -- FictionGenre/Form: Psychological fiction. | General fiction.DDC classification: Free Fiction
Contents:
From the bestselling author of The Space Between Us comes an emotionally-charged story about unexpected death, unhealed wounds, and the price one father will pay to protect himself from pain and loss.
Subject: An emotionally-charged story about unexpected death, unhealed wounds, and the price one father will pay to protect himself from pain and loss.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

"Powerful. . . . Twisty, brimming with dark humor and keen moral insight, The Weight of Heaven packs a wallop on both a literary and emotional level. . . . Umrigar . . . is a descriptive master." -- Christian Science Monitor

From Thrity Umrigar, bestselling author of The Space Between Us, comes The Weight of Heaven. In the rich tradition of the acclaimed works of Indian writers such as Rohinton Mistry, Akhil Sharma, Indra Sinha, and Jhumpa Lahiri, The Weight of Heaven is an emotionally charged story about unexpected death, unhealed wounds, and the price one father will pay to protect himself from pain and loss. Additionally, it offers unique perspectives, both Indian and American, on the fragmented nature of globalized India.

From the bestselling author of The Space Between Us comes an emotionally-charged story about unexpected death, unhealed wounds, and the price one father will pay to protect himself from pain and loss.

An emotionally-charged story about unexpected death, unhealed wounds, and the price one father will pay to protect himself from pain and loss.

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Excerpt provided by Syndetics

The Weight of Heaven Chapter One They had finished dinner a half hour ago, and now they sat on the porch waiting for the rains to come. The nighttime air was heavy with moisture, but it held its burden in check, like a widow blinking back her tears. While they waited, the storm entertained them with its flash and dazzle--the drumbeat of the thunder, the silver slashes of lightning against the black skin of the sky. With each explosion of lightning they saw the scene before them--the tall shadows on their front lawn cast by the coconut trees, the still sand beyond the lawn, and even beyond that, the restless, furious sea, straining against the shore. He had always loved thunderstorms, even as a young boy in Grand Rapids. While his older brother, Scott, cowered and flinched and pulled the bedcovers over his ears, Frank would stand before the window of their shared bedroom, feeling brave and powerful. Talking back to the storm. He would deliberately turn his back on Scott, embarrassed and bewildered to see his older brother, usually as placid as the waters of Lake Michigan in the summer, turn into this fearful, unrecognizable creature. If they were lucky, their mother would come into their room to rock and calm her oldest boy down, and then Frank was free to escape to the second-floor porch that was adjacent to the guest bedroom. Being on this porch was the next best thing to being outdoors. From here, he felt closer to the tumultuous Michigan sky and violently, perilously free. Thunderstorms made him feel lonely, but it was a powerful lonely, something that connected him to the solitude of the world around him. If he stood on his toes and leaned his upper body out on the porch railing just so, the rain would hit his upturned face, the tiny pinpricks painful but exhilarating. The wind roared and Frank roared back; his hands tingled with each burst of lightning, as if it was nothing but a projection of the jagged, electric energy that coursed through his pale, thin body. Years later, it would become one of Frank's greatest disappointments that his son had not inherited his love of thunderstorms. When little Benny would crawl into bed with them, when he would whimper and bottle up his ears with his index fingers, Frank fought conflicting urges--the protective, fatherly part of him would pray for the thunderstorm to pass, would want to cradle his son's trembling body in the nest of his own, even as a small disappointment gathered like a lump in the back of his throat. Unlike in Michigan, thunderstorms in western India did not pass quickly. They had been in Girbaug for seventeen months now and knew how it could rain nonstop for days during the monsoon season. Now, although it was only May, the forecast called for rain tonight. Frank felt grateful to be home to watch it. He sat impatiently, waiting for the heavy, laden sky to deliver its promise. The wind whipped around them, high enough that they didn't have to rock the swing they were sitting on. Behind them, the house was dark--Ellie had turned off the lights after they'd picked up their after-dinner coffees and padded out to the porch. Every few minutes the lightning lit up the whole panoramic scene before them, like a camera flash. Frank knew that when the rains came crashing down they would come swiftly, brutally, and his body ached with anticipation. So far it had all been foreplay--the whispers of the tall coconut trees as they leaned into each other; the cloying sweetness of the jasmine bushes; the painful groaning of the thunder. Now, he longed for the satisfying release that the rains would deliver. He turned toward Ellie and waited for the next flash of lightning to illuminate her face. They had exchanged a few aimless words since moving to the porch, but for the most part they had sat in an easy silence for which Frank was grateful. It was a contrast to most of their interactions these days, which were laced with bitterness and unspoken accusations. He knew he was losing Ellie, that she was slipping out of his hands like the sand that lay just beyond the front yard, but he seemed unable to prevent the slow erosion. What she wanted from him--forgiveness--he could not grant her. What he wanted from her--his son back--she couldn't give. The lightning flashed, and he saw her white, slender body for an instant before the darkness carried her away again. She was sitting erect and still, her back pressed against the wooden boards of the swing. But what made Frank's heart lurch was the look on her face. She sat with her eyes closed, a beatific expression on her face, looking for all the world like one of the Buddha statues they had seen on a recent trip to the Ajanta caves. She seemed to feel none of the agitation, the exciting turmoil, that was coursing through his body. Ellie seemed far away, as distant as the moon he could not see. Slipping away from his hands. Completely unaware of the memories tumbling through his mind--Ellie and he running through the streets of Ann Arbor at night during a thunderstorm, laughing wildly and singing at the top of their lungs before arriving at the house she was renting, stripping off their wet clothes at the door and falling naked onto the couch she had inherited from the previous grad student who lived there; him coming home from work one evening and finding Ellie lying on her stomach on the floor, trying to pull their four-year-old son from under their bed where he was hiding during a rainstorm. A savage malice gripped Frank. As was common these days, something about Ellie's calm irritated him. Deliberately, he said, "Do you remember how he used to--" "Yes. Of course I remember." She was wide awake now, having heard something in his voice that perhaps even he was not aware of. The satisfaction that Frank felt from having destroyed Ellie's calm was tempered by something approaching regret. Her serenity, which he used to value so much, was now a scab he had to pick away at. The Weight of Heaven . Copyright © by Thrity Umrigar . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

Frank and Ellie are two attractive people who have basically led charmed lives. Frank's absent father notwithstanding, they each grew up in fairly secure surroundings and attended college and professional school, meeting and marrying and living in bliss. Suddenly, the world spins out of control when their seven-year-old son dies from meningitis. Soon afterward, they have an opportunity to make a work-related move to a seaside town in India, providing the panacea that will help them heal from their loss. As educated, liberal, progressive Americans, they cannot anticipate how they will react as they become part of the class struggle within Indian society; nor can they know how attached they will become to the son of their servants. Although it may be risky to latch on to bright young Ramesh, they convince themselves that they are helping the boy by providing him with things that his parents could never afford. Self-deception runs rampant, and Frank is eventually overcome by emotional turmoil, which leads him to make a fatal error in judgment. Umrigar (First Darling of the Morning) finely plumbs the depths of the human heart, from the heights of joy and passion to the very deepest despair. Recommended for all fiction collections.-Susanne Wells, P.L. of Cincinnati & Hamilton Cty. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

Umrigar (The Space Between Us) continues her exploration of cultural divides in this beautifully written and incisive novel about an American couple's experience in India. Frank and Ellie Benton, grappling with the death of their seven-year-old son, move from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Girbaug, India, where Frank takes a job running a factory. While he tackles the barriers faced by an educated, wealthy American in charge of a Third World work force, Ellie, a psychologist, makes inroads with the impoverished locals at a health clinic. Frank has a difficult time adjusting at work, and at home he takes an interest in their housekeepers' son, Ramesh, and begins tutoring him. While Frank buries his grief by helping Ramesh, he ends up in competition with the boy's bitter father, Prakash, and further damaging his already troubled marriage. Umrigar digs into the effects of grief on a relationship and the many facets of culture clash-especially American capitalism's impact on a poor country-but it is the tale of how Frank's interest in Ramesh veers into obsession and comes to a devastating end that provides the gripping through line. Umrigar establishes herself as a singularly gifted storyteller. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* In the years following the sudden death of their seven-year-old son, Benny, Michigan residents Frank and Ellie Benton have witnessed the steady deterioration of their marriage. So when Frank's boss offers him a position overseeing a company factory in the rural Indian city of Girbaug, Ellie convinces her husband it's just the change they both need. From the start, Ellie, a therapist, basks in her new life, making friends with townspeople and volunteering her services at a nearby clinic. But Frank's work brings endless grief. His company, Herbal Solutions, has taken over land containing trees that locals have long harvested for their medicinal properties. (One Girbaug resident is so despondent over his loss of income, he takes his own life.) Frank's world brightens when he befriends Ramesh, the charming, inquisitive son of the Bentons' housekeeper and cook. Ramesh soon becomes a surrogate for Benny in a relationship that simultaneously boosts Frank's spirits and breaks his heart. Umrigar (First Darling of the Morning, 2008) renders melancholy novels that resonate with rich prose and vibrant depictions of India, where she spent the first 21 years of her life before moving to the States. The Weight of Heaven is a bold, beautifully rendered tale of cultures that clash and coalesce.--Block, Allison Copyright 2009 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

Sorrow turns to obsession when Ellie and Frank Benton move from Ann Arbor, Mich., to India shortly after the death of their seven-year-old son. Frank's employer, HerbalSolutions, harvests and manufactures a diabetes remedy in the village of Girbaug, and Frank, at Ellie's urging, is to run the plant. They are escaping from the empty bedroom their son once occupied, from the empty weekends they fill with long aimless drives, from the thousand memories they have of their happy boy, killed quickly by meningococcal fever. In India, Ellie and Frank find a reprieve from their heartache, but escape is hardly a cure. After a year and a half, Ellie loves India, has found a best friend in former journalist Nandita and a sense of purpose in working to improve the lives of the villagers. For Frank, though, India offers no simple salve. As the symbol of corporate America using up its natural resources, he deals with labor disputes, bribery and even the death of a union activist who was trying to improve conditions at HerbalSolutions. The only bright spot for Frank is Ramesh, young son of the Bentons' maid and cook. As Frank becomes increasingly attached to the boy, his father Prakash becomes jealous, irritated by the rich Westerner who can lure his son with expensive gifts, free time and promises of an American education. It is obvious to Ellie that Ramesh is a replacement for their dead son, but what she can't fathom is Frank's vitriolic attitude toward Prakash, and increasingly, all India. Umrigar's portrait of Frank's descent into obsessive madness is well paced, as are her descriptions of the couple's loneliness together, but the novel stumbles with two long flashbacksone describing Frank and Ellie's courtship and the other Benny's deaththat add little. By the end, Frank's preoccupation turns to wickedness and violence. Not as unified as Umrigar's previous novels (If Today Be Sweet, 2007, etc.), but an unflinching portrait of parental bereavement. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.